This roast turkey is simple to make and full of savory flavors including butter, garlic, herbs and lemon. A must-have Thanksgiving turkey recipe that even a novice cook can make with minimal effort!

Be a rock star this year on Thanksgiving by presenting your family and friends with this juicy, golden brown roast turkey. Serve it alongside homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and honey roasted carrots for a complete meal that will earn you rave reviews.

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A Thanksgiving roast turkey on a serving platter garnished with herbs, pomegranate and figs.

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving, and for me, making a turkey can be a source of stress. I want my turkey to be golden brown, juicy and perfectly cooked, and that’s a lot of pressure when you’re juggling a bunch of other side dishes, desserts and appetizers at the same time! This roast turkey is a super simple way to do a Thanksgiving turkey and it always comes out perfectly for me.

How do you make a roast turkey?

The first step is to season your turkey. In this case, we’re stuffing the cavity of the turkey with aromatics like onion, herbs and lemon. The turkey also gets coated in a seasoned butter mixture. I cook my turkey first at high heat to brown up the skin, then I turn the temperature down so that the turkey can continue to cook all the way through.

A raw turkey with onion, lemon and herbs in the cavity.

How do you thaw a turkey?

I buy a fresh turkey whenever possible, but I know sometimes that isn’t always economical or practical.  If you’ have a frozen turkey, the best way to thaw it is in the refrigerator, but you do need to plan in advance. Typically you’ll need to thaw for one day per 4 pounds of turkey. I had a 12 pound turkey and it took a full 3 days for it to thaw.

How do you prepare a turkey for the oven?

To prepare a turkey for roasting you’ll need to do the following steps:

  • remove the neck from the turkey cavity
  • tie the legs together with oven safe kitchen twine (do this after you’ve stuffed the cavity!)
  • fold the ends of the turkey wings under your bird
  • remove the giblet bag

A whole raw turkey coated in seasoned butter.

How long do you cook a roast turkey in the oven?

The general rule of thumb is that a turkey needs to cook at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes per pound. In this case, we’re starting at a much higher temperature then turning the oven down to 350 degrees, so your turkey should cook a little faster with this method.

What temperature do you roast a turkey?

I start my turkey at 450 degrees F to ensure that the finished turkey will have golden brown, crispy skin. After 30-40 minutes, the skin will have started to brown, and at that point you can turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F.

A roast turkey in a baking pan.

When is a turkey done?

A turkey is ready when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F. The internal temperature of the turkey is more important than the overall suggested bake time.

How much turkey per person?

You’ll want to plan on one pound of turkey per person. If you’d like to have a lot of turkey leftovers for sandwiches the next day, you should plan on 1 1/2 pounds per person.

Do you have to brine a turkey?

You do not have to brine a turkey to get a juicy and flavorful bird. That being said, a brine does help prevent a turkey from drying out and it adds a lot of flavor in the process. If you’d like to brine your bird before proceeding with this roast turkey, you can find my favorite brine recipe here. More questions about brining? Check out my complete guide on how to brine a turkey!

Sliced roast turkey on a serving platter with rosemary, pomegranate and figs.

Do you have to baste a turkey?

I like to baste my roast turkey with a little chicken or turkey broth because I think it helps to ensure that the turkey doesn’t dry out. If you’ve decided to brine your bird, you can skip the basting step in the recipe.

How to use turkey leftovers

Got leftover turkey? That’s a very common occurrence and I find that sometimes the leftovers taste even better the second day. I’ve compiled a list of 40 Leftover Turkey Recipes so that you have plenty of ways to repurpose your bird.

Everyone will be so impressed when you serve up this beautiful and delicious roast turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

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Roast Turkey Video

5 from 12 votes

Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving

AuthorSara Welch
A Thanksgiving roast turkey on a serving platter garnished with herbs, pomegranate and figs.
This roast turkey is simple to make and full of savory flavors including butter, garlic, herbs and lemon. A must-have Thanksgiving turkey recipe that even a novice cook can make with minimal effort!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 10 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 12


  • 12 lb turkey giblets and neck removed
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 8 tablespoons butter softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • fresh herbs and fruit for garnish optional


  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Fold the wings of the turkey under the body.
  • Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the lemon, onion, rosemary and garlic.
  • Place the butter, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir until combined.
  • Spread the butter all over the turkey, both on top of and underneath the skin. Season the turkey with more salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  • Tie the turkey drumsticks together, Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Cook for 30-40 minutes or until turkey has started to turn golden brown.
  • Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Baste the turkey with 1/2 cup chicken broth.
  • Bake for another 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the chicken broth, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F. If your turkey is getting too dark, you can cover it with foil.
  • Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and garnish with herbs and fruit if desiredl Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before slicing.


If you'd like to brine your turkey, here is my favorite brine recipe. If you choose to brine the turkey, you can skip the basting with chicken broth step.


Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 251mg | Sodium: 633mg | Potassium: 786mg | Vitamin A: 415IU | Vitamin C: 5.9mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 3mg

Hello! I’m Sara!

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  1. Do you use unsalted butter to put all over the turkey if I used your brine recipe? I don’t want to make it too salty.

  2. Hi! Thanks for the recipe and instructions. I didn’t see any mention of foil. Do you cover the turkey during any/all of the baking steps?

  3. Hi! I am excited to do my very first turkey this year! I am going to brine it using your brine recipe. I am very excited. Should I stuff the cavity with the remnants of the brine? Should the turkey roast in the brine?

    1. You will want to remove the turkey from the brine before you cook it, do not cook the turkey in the brine or stuff the cavity with the brine remnants or it could end up too salty! You can stuff the turkey with fresh items such as sprigs of herbs, lemons, onion, etc. Hope this helps!

  4. What are your thoughts on using an orange to stuff inside the turkey cavity? I used my two lemons for the brine recipe. I’m really trying to avoid a visit to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Eve.

    Thank you!

  5. I know this question has been asked but I just wanted to know if I brine the turkey is it ok to still baste the turkey with the chicken stock. Just want like my turkey extra juice ya do moist.

  6. Today is 11/23/19 cooking 2 = 28 l bs fresh turkeys for a family of 60. The brine is mixed and cooling and the babies will be bathing until tomorrow at 6 am. Going to cook the neck and giblets today and store until tomorrow to make the gravy. 40 lbs of potatoes peeled and in frig until tomorrow. Wish me luck as my husband’s siblings take turns in preparing thanksgiving and you guessed it…its our turn this year. I feel comfortable cooking the turkeys….my worry is making a tasty gravy for the mashers. I’ll let you know how all turns out.

  7. I received a free turkey from a friend that was already injected with salt… I followed your brine recipe but cut the salt in half to try and avoid an overly salty bird. Do you recommend that I still add salt to the butter before cooking the turkey?

    This is my first bird I’ve ever cooked and brined so I’m really hoping it turns out okay for my friendsgiving tonight!

  8. 5 stars
    I love your recipes and I want to use this one for the turkey I make this year for Thanksgiving. I plan to brine my turkey. Does that mean I don’t baste with chicken broth at all throughout the cooking process or just initially? Thanks!

    1. You don’t need to use chicken broth at all if you brine your turkey. If you want to baste with any pan drippings you can, but the brine will prevent it from getting dry so you really don’t need to!